Saul Rodriguez chases down an Auburn player in the second half. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Saul Rodriguez chases down an Auburn player in the second half. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kent-Meridian soccer falls to Auburn

Royals allowed two goals in first six minutes and couldn’t muster a comeback.

A season that has been self-described as a roller coaster by Head Coach Brian Gabert continues to give Kent-Meridian soccer players and fans a ride.

And as of late, Kent-Meridian boys soccer is on a downturn over their last three games.

A loss to Tahoma, draw to Kentridge and most recently a 2-1 loss to Auburn on April 8 has hampered momentum from wins against Kennedy Catholic and Decatur.

Auburn has not been a threat since coming out of the pandemic in the NPSL soccer scene, with the Trojans winning just three games since 2021. So Auburn might have surprised the Royals at the start of the game. Gabert gave the Trojans their flowers: “That is a good team. That is a much better team than they have been in the past... They held possession well and combined really well, much different from last year.”

In the first six minutes of the game, Auburn sprinted out to a two-goal lead over the Royals. Starting games well has been an issue for Kent-Meridian. It’s been their Achilles heel all year. Kentridge scored their goal in the first minute of the game against the Royals on Friday.

“I don’t know (how to fix it). We’ve played great up until Kentridge... One guy falls asleep or something and it just kills ya. I don’t know, it is a coaching mystery,” Gabert said.

But thanks to a cerebral play from Keilor Cacho Garcia, the Royals were able to get on the board and stop the Auburn onslaught.

“He is very aware and knows where he is going...He can be deadly,” Gabert said.

Chacho Garcia caught the Auburn goalkeeper off of his line and launched a shot from 50 yards out and the ball peacefully rolled over the line. Three total goals were scored in the first eight minutes of the game, and that’s all the scoring that happened in this contest.

When allowing early goals and uncharacteristic goals, Gabert has seen his side try and overcorrect themselves. Rather than relying on training and tactics they try and do just a bit too much, he would like to see them just slow down and play their game.

But he took responsibility for some of that as well.

“As soon as we give up a goal they switch... They get frustrated because they’re not building. Maybe as a coach that’s something I need to work on. How do we build it so we’re getting better opportunities,” said Gabert.

Coming out of halftime, the Royals were much more organized and had an idea of how to level the game, but were just missing that extra pass to could create enough space for a good opportunity.

One of the reasons that something seemed to be missing from the Royal offense was because they were missing something. “Swiss Army Knife” Andres Zuluaga has been sidelined with a concussion and is nearing return, which could jolt some life into the Royals squad. “Not having him kills us. He changes everything,” Gabert said.

The loss to Auburn kicked off the 3A section of the league schedule for the Royals. Each game will be more important for Gabert and the Royals as they enter the back half of the season.

“We’re there. We just gotta keep believing in ourselves and get a win against Thomas Jefferson,” Gabert said.

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Manny Sanjuan throws the ball to a teammate against Auburn. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Manny Sanjuan throws the ball to a teammate against Auburn. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Johan Zuluaga controls the ball against the Trojans at Auburn Memorial. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Johan Zuluaga controls the ball against the Trojans at Auburn Memorial. Ben Ray / The Reporter

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